Just because someone is a “heavy drinker” or a “problem drinker” doesn’t mean that they are automatically an alcoholic. You could say that this type of person “abuses” alcohol, but rather alcoholism itself is an addiction with a variety of different definitions. There is often controversy over how the actual diagnosis should be made.
We often suggest that alcoholism is an addiction due to the following factors: compulsive use, preoccupation with the acquisition of alcohol, narrowing of interests, relapse and often denial. These various factors are also seen in addictions in all other variations of drug dependence.
There isn’t a single “correct” definition that we should and can use for alcoholism due to the subtle nature of the disease in its progression. The line in which people cross to become an alcoholic from heavy drinking is unclear. However, if we apply an overall definition of addiction, then “continued use and abuse in spite of severe consequences” is a smart place to start.
For those whose alcohol use has continued to the point of addiction as defined above, then we can conclude that they are an alcoholic and they need professional help immediately.
It is very important to note that many of those people who only consider themselves “moderate drinkers”, experience some of the early symptoms that alcoholism permits. This includes interpersonal problems, medical issues and hangovers that cause absence from work.